Complete Guide To Dried Chiles

Complete Guide to Dried Chiles

Complete Guide To Dried Chiles

Every chile in the world today has origins in Mexico, the Southwestern United States, Central America, and South America. Chiles were spread across the globe by Spanish and Portuguese ships. These colonists, traders, and missionaries introduced chiles, along with many other now common crops such as pineapples, tomatoes, potatoes, and maize, to the corners of the globe. In exchange, they gave the new world things such as pork and rice. This transfer of goods between the old world and the new world is called the Columbian Exchange. Before the Columbian Exchange, one would have to picture a world where Italy did not have tomatoes, Ireland did not have potatoes, the Swiss did not have chocolate, there was no Coffee in Columbia, and your favorite Thai and Indian dishes were not spicy. Not a pleasant place.

This guide focuses specifically on dried chiles. Depending on the type of chile, they are either sun dried, roasted, or smoked. The drying process intensifies the flavors, often providing a flavor fairly distinct from its fresh counterpart. Smoking the chiles imparts a rich, deep, and complex flavor into the chile. Smoked chiles are commonly used in Mexico and the Southwestern United States.

Common Questions About Chiles

Is it Chile, Chili, or Chilli?

So what is the correct spelling anyway? It appears that when the Spanish first arrived in the Americas they used the word ‘Chilli’ to describe the spicy fruit they had found. This, of course, was a Romanized version of the native word. This spelling still prevails in the U.K. and India. ‘Chile’ with an ‘e’ is the way it is spelled in modern Latin America. Chili with an ‘i’ at the end is the Americanized version of the modern Spanish term ‘chile.’ Given that all chiles originally hail from Latin America, most die-hards agree ‘chile’ is probably the most correct spelling. However, all three are acceptable.

Are chiles peppers?

Columbus had a knack for screwing things up. It’s hard to believe that we still celebrate a person whose legacy is riddled with so many failures and historical inaccuracies. Columbus headed west looking for India and its spices, particularly black pepper. Instead, he landed in the Americas. Rather than admit defeat, he named the natives Indians and the spice they were using as ‘pepper.’ Now we have Indians that are not Indian and chile peppers that are not peppers. 500 years later, we are still unraveling his mess. Ironically, when chiles finally reached real Indians in India, they did not call them peppers at all.

How do I use Dried Chiles?

Generally, dried chiles are roasted before they’re used. This can be done in the oven, on a grill, in a pan, or on a comal. The chiles should be roasted just long enough to begin releasing their aroma, taking caution to ensure they don’t burn. When roasting chiles of varying sizes be sure to account for their varying roasting times. Once the chiles are roasted, they are usually reconstituted then either ground or chopped, depending on the recipe. To reconstitute the chiles, place them in hot or simmering water until they soften.


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Origin : Puebla Region, Mexico
Heat : 4/10
Notes : Fruit, plum, raisin, earth, tobacco, licorice, and coffee.
Description : Made from dried ripened Poblano, the Ancho Chile is generally very sweet. It is indispensable in Mexican and Southwestern cooking. Ancho Chile is used in salsas, sauces, and rubs. Along with the Mulatto and Pasilla Chiles, the Ancho is part of the ‘holy trinity’ of chiles used to make mole. In fact, you often see the three chiles sold together.
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Origin : Jalisco, Nayarit, Puebla Region, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, Mexico
Heat : 6.5/10
Notes : Tannic, smokey, grassy, acidic, and bitter.
Description : Chile de Árbol can be used in any dish to add bright clean heat. It is used in a various types of chilli, salsa, and hot sauces. Chile de Arbol is similar in heat and appearance to the Cayenne Pepper. The name Chile de Arbol translates to ‘treelike’ in Spanish, referring to its thick woody stems and structure of the chile plant. Chile de Arbol is very common in international cuisines such as Indian, North African, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, and American Southwest.
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Origin : Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chihuahua, Mexico. Also, Texas and New Mexico
Heat : 7/10
Notes : Smoke, earth, tobacco, chocolate, leather, nuts, and subtle heat.
Description : The name Chipotle comes from the Aztec word meaning ‘smoked chile.’ Chipotles are made from ripe (red) Jalapeños which have been dried then smoked for several days. Chipotles are used primarily in Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisines. Its bold flavor is best in sauces, barbeque, and other hearty meals.
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Origin : Several states throughout Mexico, including San Luis Potosi, Coahuila, Durango, Guerrero, and Jalisco
Heat : 4/10
Notes : Woodsy, acidic, and slightly smoky with tobacco and nutty undertones.
Description : Cascabels are round, plump, and smooth chiles that ripen from green to red. When dried, they develop a deep reddish-brown skin that holds its shape. They are small in size, measuring roughly 1½” in diameter when mature. Despite their size, cascabels are rich in flavor, mild in heat, and offer a unique blend of earthy and smoky notes. They are commonly referred to as rattle chiles due to their shape and the rattling sound the seeds make when the dried chiles are shaken. Cascabel peppers are also known as guajones and coras chile bola.
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Origin : Northern and Central Mexico
Heat : 2/10
Notes : Complex, berry, tannic, crisp, tea, cranberry, and sweet heat.
Description : Guajillo Chiles are made by drying the Mirasol Chile. It is the second most popular chile in Mexico behind the Ancho Chile. It is also used in North Africa to make harissa chile paste. Guajillo is very versatile and used in nearly all facets of Mexican cuisine; including salsas, soups, stews, rubs, and sauces. It even pairs well with chocolate.
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Origin : Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chihuahua, Mexico
Heat : 6/10
Notes : Sweet, light smoke, fruit, plum, fig, tea, tobacco, tannin, and chocolate.
Description : Morita means ‘little mulberry, in Spanish. Morita Chile, like Chipotle, is made from ripe Jalapeño which has been dried and smoked. Moritas, however, are smoked for less time, which allows them to retain a slightly fruity flavor. Morita Chile is used in sauces and salsas.
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Origin : Central Mexico
Heat : 4/10
Notes : Rich, complex flavors with notes of cherry, raisin, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet smoke.
Description : The Mulato is a dried Poblano. However, it comes from a different type of Poblano than the Ancho Chile. The Poblanos used for Mulato Chiles ripen to a dark brownish-purple, while the Poblanos used for Ancho Chiles ripen to a deep red. Also, like the Ancho, the Mulato is part of the ‘holy trinity’ of chiles used in mole sauces.
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Origin : Jalisco and other parts of Central Mexico
Heat : 4/10
Notes : Rich smoky flavor, raisin, earth, cocoa, fruit and licorice.
Description : Pasilla means ‘little raisin’ and refers to a dried Chilaca Chile. When Chilaca is dried it wrinkles and shrinks to look like a raisin or prune, hence its name. Pasilla Chiles are used in a wide range of salsas and adobos sauces. It is also a member of the ‘holy trinity’ of chiles for mole. Be careful, Pasilla Chiles are often mislabeled as Poblano, particularly in California.
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Origin : Oaxaca
Heat : 6/10
Notes : Strong complex smoky flavor with sharp heat and a hint of fruit.
Description : The Pasilla de Oaxaca grows in small pockets throughout the hills of southern Oaxaca in the Sierra Mixe. This exotic chile is vine ripened then heavily smoked, is excellent in salsas and soups, and is not easily found outside of Mexico.


Origin : Peru
Heat : 5/10
Notes : Fruit, mango, sunny, tropical, and berry flavors with a clean subtle heat. 
Description : This is the most popular chile in Peru. Aji is the term for chile in South America, so Aji Amarillo literally means yellow chile. Aji Amarillo has deep roots in Peru—going all the way back to the Incas—and is arguably the most important ingredient in Peruvian cuisine.
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Origin : Peru & Bolivia
Heat : 3/10
Notes : Sweet, fruity, apricot, with a mild and clean heat.
Description : The name Aji Mirasol means ‘looking at the sun.’ This sun-dried chile adds a unique flavor and depth to many Peruvian dishes. They also impart an incredibly vibrant color to soups, stews, and salsas. This chile, along with Aji Panca and Aji Amarillo, are the most common chiles used in Peruvian gastronomy.
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Origin : Peru
Heat : 2/10
Notes : Fruit, sweet, blueberry, berries, and smoke, with mild and lingering heat.
Description : Aji Panca is the second most popular chile in Peru behind the Aji Amarillo. It is grown mainly on the coast.  Aji Panca is a relative of Aji Amarillo, however, the flavor profile is brighter and fresher. These chiles are typically found in stews, grilled and roasted meats, soups, and sauces.
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Origin : French Guiana
Heat : 8/10
Notes : Tart and acidic with long lingering heat.  Smokey and dusty.
Description : This chile was originally found near the city of Cayenne in French Guiana. Now, Cayenne is available in every corner of the world including Africa, Asia, Mexico, and North America. It is a staple in Louisiana cooking, as well as bottled hot sauces.
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Origin : Guerrero and Oaxaca, Mexico
Heat : 6/10
Notes : Complex, soapy, nutty, green, with apricot and other fruit flavors. Fiery, lingering heat.
Description : Costeno Chile is generally rather hard to find outside of Mexico. Costeno Rojo means ‘red coastal’ in Spanish, referring to its origins near the ocean of Southwestern Mexico. Closely related to the Costeno Rojo is the Costeno Amarillo. The Costeno Chiles are part of the Mirasol Chile family and date back to the Aztecs. This chile adds a kick to soups, salsas, and stews.


Origin : Peru, Southern Mexico & The Caribbean
Heat : 10/10
Notes : Tropical fruit, acid, citrus, papaya, coconut, berry, and intense, fiery heat.
Description : The Habanero was once the hottest chile in the world. Habaneros have a topical, citrus-like flavor that makes them very popular in hot sauces, powders, and rubs. The chile is incredibly diverse in terms of uses, particularly considering its heat. The chile hails from Peru, but is now synonymous with the Caribbean and Yucatecan flavors.
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Origin : Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chihuahua, Mexico
Heat : 5/10
Notes : Fruit, plum, red apple, tobacco, smoke, and mesquite.
Description : The Mora Chile –like chipotle—is a dried smoked jalapeno. It is common in salsas and roasted meats.


Origin : Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chihuahua, Mexico
Heat : 6/10
Notes : Tobacco, chocolate, fig, subtle fruit, and sweet smoke.
Description : The Morita Chile is made of a rare type of jalapeno. The jalapeno is picked young, then smoked for a very short period to maintain its delicate flavors.
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Origin : Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico
Heat : 4/10
Notes : Sweet, earthy, light smoke, citrus, apple, and herbs.
Description : New Mexico Green Chile is ubiquitous throughout the American Southwest. Green Chile can be found in nearly every dish in New Mexico and parts of Southern Colorado. The use and quality of Green Chile in these regions is a point of pride.


Origin : Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico
Heat : 3/10
Notes : Earthy, light smoke, acid, dried cherry. Crisp, clean heat.
Description : This chile is also known as the Chile Colorado, Anaheim Chile, or California Chile. New Mexico Chiles are used to flavor sauces, chutneys, salsas, soups, seasonings and rubs.


Origin : Mexico
Heat : 8/10
Notes : Light smoke, sweet, citrus, nutty, and complex with a deep, clean heat.
Description : The name roughly translates to ‘tiny chile.’ This little chile has nearly 10 times the heat as a Jalapeno. They grow wild thoughout parts of Mexico, and are common in salsas, sauces, soups, and commercial hot sauces.
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Origin : Central Valley of Mexico
Heat : 6/10
Notes : Sweet, fruit, cherry, and a hint of licorice with mild heat.
Description : The Pulla Chile is sometimes spelled phonetically in English as Puya. It is a close relative of the Guajillo. They are excellent in stews, soups, salsas, sauces, and marinades.


Origin : Mexico and Sonoran Desert
Heat : 8/10
Notes : Dry and dusty with an intense clean heat.
Description : It is said that the Tepin Chile is the only chile native to the United States. More specifically, the Sonoran desert. The name is derived from an Aztec word for ‘flea,’ obviously a reference to its size. The Tepin Chile is generally used in rubs and marinades.


Origin : Southeast Asia, India, Ethiopia
Heat : 8.5/10
Notes : Intense building heat.
Description : In Thai, these chiles are called prik kee noo which literally translates to ‘mouse dropping chile.’ These chiles were brought to Southeast Asia by the Portuguese in the 16th and 17th centuries. Now, they have been redistributed all over the world.
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Origin : Jalisco and the Central Valley of Mexico
Heat : 7/10
Notes : Clean flavorless heat.
Description : Chile Japones, or ‘Japanese Chiles’ are similar in appearance to Chile De Arbol. These Chiles are very common and readily available in Mexican and Asian markets. Chile Japones are more commonly used in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines rather than in Mexican cuisine. They are also commonly used as a substitute for Thai Chiles. They are primarily used to add heat without overpowering the other flavors of a dish.
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Tips for buying dried chiles

Chiles should be supple and flexible.
Rigid chiles that break when bent have lost the essential oils that give them their unique flavors.
Chiles should not be faded or dusty.
They should be deep shades of red, purple, and brown; not translucent or yellowish.
Chiles should have a rich aroma, similar to a coffee or tea.
You can store dried chiles for up to six months in a dry, airtight container.

Tips + supplies for cooking + preparing dried chili dishes

Chiles are best when roasted on a comal, or a heavy skillet that maintains even heat.
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Create custom spice blends by removing the seeds and stems of dried peppers, then using a spice grinder to blend them while still dry. These mixtures are great for rubs, marinades, or the base for stocks and soups.
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Recommended combinations:

3 : 1 ratio of dried Ancho to Arbol for a spicy rub for pork and beef.

3 : 2 : 2 : 1 ratio of Ancho, Cascabel, Morita, Arbol for a flavorful and balanced soup base.

1 : 1 : 1 ratio of Ancho, Guajillo, and Arbol for a simple, yet spicy and flavorful, dry marinade.
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Chile Peppers



Try our Salsa Verde recipe

Try our Mexican Fruit Salad recipe with homemade chili powder

Try our Street Taco recipe

  • Shannon Clark Hatch
    Posted at 20:50h, 01 February Reply

    Great reference, thank you. No mention of Anaheim or Jalapeños. Curious as to their origins and heat and flavour descriptions, if you have any to share.

  • Alan
    Posted at 20:08h, 07 February Reply

    I’ve been looking for a leaping-off point for recreating a decent chile colorado sauce. Thanks for compiling this fantastic list.

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